Whisky Review: Cragganmore Aged 12 Years Diageo Special Release 2019

Style: Sweet, Spicy and Smoky

Nose:
Okay, I have been warned – barbeque smoke with iodine drops and kelp, feels like a lite version of Lagavulin, intriguing. Something floral at the core is trying to escape the from smoky shackles. Barley and white flower surfacing to the top, while the rest remain on the isle of Islay. Mezcal, distilled vinegar and lemon tart giving a young peaty vibe. Just a hint of elusive wood smoke buried at the very bottom.

Palate:
Smoky water drizzling down onto barley field, apple crumples, sunflower seeds with a touch of orange citrus peel. Icing sugar on roasted almonds and banana bread, walnuts, iodine with crunchy bacon bits. Creamy notes and dried apricots undertone shining through and broaden the structure. Wood smoke, some subtle distillate greenness at the back palate. Finishes with barley husks and ester fruits.

Finish:
Barbeque smoke staying behind, orange candy, apricots, floral side notes, kelp and soft sea breeze. Subtle, creamy barley singing softly till the end.

Thoughts:
Serve this to me blind I would never have guessed this is a Cragganmore. The iodine, the smoke, the sweetness, in many ways it reminds me of a young and soft Islay whisky. Sure, they are flashes of rawness here and there, but as the profile progresses, the light Speyside spirit begins to show its fruity DNA, resulting a dram with an exquisite balance of fruits, barley, wood and smoke. I don’t know what is the intention of doing a smoky Cragganmore, but I quite enjoyed this new interpretation and hopefully we can see more of it in the future.

☆ [Recommended]

[58.4% | Original Bottling | Natural Cask Strength | Limited Edition | *-]

-Esmond

Dram Review: Whisky Magazine Editor’s Choice Cragganmore 22 Years Old

[55.7%・22 Years Old・Distilled in 1992・Bottled in 2015・Whisky Magazine Bottling ・Cask No. 4614・Single Cask Release of 239 Bottles]

Nose:

The spirit driven dram leads with clean malty aroma and a lick of spices, there is a sense of distillery identity on the nose.  It then opens up to green apples and limes with some sandalwood and grass moving underneath. In time the light lemongrass note gives a rather uplifting hook whilst the vanilla provides a mellow creaminess.

Palate & Finish:

In a seamless display of spectrum of flavours the dram starts off with an oily delivery of buttery sweetness, honey and salted caramel arriving first then comes the light citrus green fruits which intertwine with the spirt led spices before a wave of crisp malt hits, bringing about another layer of confectionary thickness which in turn gets evened out by some gingery spices

Transitioning into a clean woodiness with the malt delicately displayed, there are some soft white fruits steadily lingering in the background

Thoughts:

Certainly an entertaining dram, brilliant palate with contrasting flavours that somehow exist together in relative harmony.

It’s a wonderful example of how well a twenty something Cragganmore tend to turn out as the age allows the whisky to develop complexity.

As a recommended dram it’s certainly quite highly rated.

☆ [Recommended]

-Nicholas

Dram Review: Kingsbury Cragganmore Distilled in Speyside 1989

[58.9%・NAS・Distilled in 1989・Kingsbury Bottling ・Single Cask Release of 305 Bottles]

Nose:

The nose is held quite tightly with only glimpse of citrus initially in midst of a spicy profile, in time the vanilla sugar becomes more relaxed, splashes of sandalwood and freshly cut grass with the green barley developing notes of burnt toast and molten mozzarella.

Palate & Finish:

The dram comes alive on the palate, a charming burst of vibrant juiciness, sweet lime jelly with cherry blossom and sultana as some dry spices get scattered through out, leading way to the pepper and the oak.

Medium finish, the fruitiness subtly stretches but falls on the light side.

Thoughts:

I suppose the spice could be perceived as distorting but it does get somewhat balanced out by the dram’s pleasing fruitiness.  Close to scoring a star.

✓ [Recommended if you like the style/ distillery]

-Nicholas

Whisky Review: World Bar Tour x The Drunken Master Cragganmore 1989 Aged 27 Years

Style: Fruity, Complex and Spicy

Nose:
Powerful spearmint heat carrying baked white fruits into sight. Creamy tropical fruits with a touch of wood polish, sweet nectarines sitting in the middle, white vinegar giving a bit of acidity. Stringent to begin with, but opens up fairly well overtime. Cinnamon, five spices and a hint of wood smoke lingering at the back.

Palate:
Nice, honey fruits showing on the palate. Multiple stone fruits – peaches, nectarines, apricots riding on a liquorice and peppermint edge. Solid fruity core herbal, grassy and even perfume floral rims are starting to show at overtones. Honey oat, coconut shreds, subtle camomile tea and even faint notes linseed. A dose of white pepper and umami at the back.

Finish:
Honey white fruits fuses with herbal liquorice. Waxiness beginning to surface. Quite nice.

Thoughts:
Such a powerful Cragganmore, no way I would guess this is bottled at 51.6%. The spice has a strong grip on it which eventually loosens after 25 minutes or so, opening up to some beautiful Cragganmore-fruits complexity, a late bloomer I guess? But still a decent dram.

[Recommended]

[51.6% • Independent Bottling • 1989 Distilled • 2016 Bottled • Single Cask • Non Colouring • Non Chill Filtered • Bottle Number: 239 • Matured in Hogshead • *-]

-Esmond

Thanks Shaun for the dram.

Whisky Review: Cragganmore 12 Years Old

Style: Sweet and Complex

Nose:
Honeyed lime and papaya with a distinct touch of smoked bacon from the far side. Cedar wood tracing in, glazed fruits lightly soaked
in vanilla milk. Peppermint hitting a few high notes. White flower confectioneries powdered with white pepper. A rather complex aroma.

Palate:
Vanilla milk spilling on more stewed tropical fruits. Agar jelly coating around what seems like a citrus core. Fresh coconut, nutmeg, cereal and poppy seed notes twisting around each other. Malt slightly roasted with sandalwood smoke. Subdued peppermint sketching across the top, finish with a dry, bitter aftertaste.

Finish:
Orange and co. trying to find a breakthrough from the oak. Nectar quietly beaming from distance.

Thoughts:
Multiple subtle elements revolving around a sweet fruity core.
Cragganmore is quite different to most Speysiders as they are relatively more one-dimensional or have stronger fruity cores which partially hinder the nuances to develop within the spirit. Although in this dram the oak eventually outgrows the others and cause a slight imbalance. Well, this bottle does not show the best of Cragganmore, tricky to get the balance right I guess, nonetheless this dram also shows the potential of this distillery – allowing complexities to grow under a coherent expression. No tick on this one, but I think Cragganmore is rather underrated distillery.

[40% • Distillery Bottling • General Release • Circa 2016]

-Esmond

Dram Review: Gordon & MacPhail Original Cask Natural High Strength Cragganmore Distilled 1976 Aged 12 Years

[56.6%・12 Years Old・Distilled in 1976・Bottled Circa. 1988-1989・Gordon & MacPhail Bottling・Limited Release]

Nose:

The nose is aggressive and on the sharp side, pine tree, truffle salt and anise with a waxiness sitting beneath.  Buttered burnt toast and toasted cereal rising up in time.  The fruits are being somewhat muted.

Palate & Finish:

Orange and toffee crisp, the cask strength really shows its presence.  Vanilla and candied bacon with a burnt note gradually moves to the surface out of the brown sugar base.

The finish is lengthy with more toasted barley coming across, only now do the stewed fruits become more noticeable.

Thoughts:

It would appear the choice to bottle at such volatile strength didn’t do the casks any favour.  Just a bit on the distorting side but certainly come quite close to scoring a tick.

-Nicholas

Whisky Review: Adelphi Limited Cragganmore 1986 29 Years Old

Style: Fruity and Complex

Nose:
Dense fragrance, ample apricot jam followed by free flowing white flower nectar. Powerful peppermint drive, more apricots, incensed wood spice combines with tasty sugar plums. Subtle lemon balm, stewed fruits gently highlighted, chocolate oak softly infused giving a hint of tobacco leaves bitterness. Beautiful sweetness.

Palate:
Powerful yet delicate entrance – gentle white peaches and apricots riding on a mighty wave of peppermint and black peppercorn spices. Honey, jammy sweetness sitting on top of a layer of waxiness. Light whispers of citrus lemon, sticky apricots, botrytis buzzing. Delicate and complex sweetness, so nice! Transits to a drier phase as cedar wood slowly tunes up with a generous brush of chalkiness.

Finish:
Polished furniture, earthy, cherry liquorice with more syrupy white peaches. Delicate but how good is this?!

Thoughts:
I feel pretty blessed as this bottle was a spontaneous buy, glad that my blind faith pays off (Hint: It was not cheap). So elegant yet the musky fruitiness make you always want to come back for more. All the other Cragganmore elements – wood smoke, liquorice, earthy chalkiness build up the complexity beautifully. A superb cask selected by Adelphi. Top dram.

 ☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

[59.2% • 2016 Bottled • 1986 Distilled • Independent Bottling • Single Cask • Cask Strength • Non Coloured • Non Chill Filtered • Cask Number: 1490 • 168 Bottles • **+]

-Esmond

Whisky Review: Cragganmore 25 Years Old 2014 Special Release

Style: Fragrant and Complex

Nose:
Delicate, fragrant mix of aroma on the nose. Massive peach and sticky apricots, milky almonds, both stewed and dried tropical fruits. Subtle walnut oak infused with light chocolate malt. Peppermint sugar and a touch of dry herbal note.

Palate:
Quiet but a robust diffusion of incense cedar and sandalwood on the palate. Fresh apricots circled around by icy spearmint. Slightly meaty notes roll in while aromatic fruits blossom charmingly. Gentle wood spice, dry malt exposed, vanilla milk on honey oak. The bitterness slowly contracts to leave a light, dry walnut tail.

Finish:
Velvet fruits continue to stew gently. More peppermint and chocolate going on. Bitter stave and linseed oil sinks deep to finish.

Thoughts:
Such a delicate, fragrant and sophisticated malt. What is special here is the balance of this spirit actually elevates the expression to the next level. Look, I don’t want to sound like a Diageo cheerleader here, but after sampling a few special release bottlings, I am starting to see the beauty of these creations. It is about the vattings, the interpretation of house styles, displaying the spirit character by utilizing multiple casks/ cask types. Not to mention that Cragganmore possess one of the most unique spirit in Scotland. Incredible blending skills, magnificent whisky.

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

[51.4% • 2014 Bottled • 1988 Distilled • Original Bottling • Cask Strength • Non Chill Filtered • Bottle Number: 0372 • 3372 Bottles • **]

-Esmond

 

Dram Review: Cragganmore Limited Release

[55.7%・NAS・Bottled in 2016・Official Bottling・Limited Release]

Nose:

What a gorgeous nose, with its waxy, velvety thickness giving a glimpse to the dram’s seductive body.  Stewed fruits with a fine layer of earthy mushrooms that adds to the depth.  Creamy toffee swirling and dancing, giving a sense of great pleasure.

Palate & Finish:

Vanilla paste with a stewed fruit infusion providing an initial coating which transforms seamlessly into a clean lager note which in turn evolves into something that’s quite special, a translucent crisp pear cider note paired with a gooey salted caramel note that fluidly elevates the enjoyment.

The finishing is soft, but it gently stretches on, with sprinkles of  forrest berries and just a hint of nuttiness.

Thoughts:

The conspiracy theorist in me can’t help but wonder if Diageo is toying with the age-statement-loyalists psychologically by making their annual NAS releases absolutely superb, with the two past Clynelish offerings and now this Cragganmore..  I am not complaining though, this is just a brilliant dram.

☆☆[Highly Recommended]

-Nicholas

Dram Review: Cragganmore Seduction 1997

[45%・19 Years Old・Silvano Samaroli Bottling・Cask 1139]

Nose:

Crisp waxy red apples on the nose, the fragrant and buttery aromas are very breathable, with none of the volatile irritants and none of the spices that need to be overlooked, just blissfulness in its purest form.

Palate & Finish:

A sense of tranquility on the palate, it’s juicy and delicious, fresh mints on pineapple piña colada with just a whiff of spices coming on faintly.

The malt has dissolved into the mellow floral note, dried white peaches interacting with a toasted weetbix note that leaves a grainy mouthfeel..

Thoughts:

The nose is absolutely gorgeous, the body is well constructed.  It’s thoroughly enjoyable and evokes something more than the mere feeling of satisfaction.

[Recommended]

-Nicholas